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Sophie Cottin, Claire d’Albe

About the Author

Margaret Cohen

Margaret Cohen’s most recent book is The Novel and the Sea (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), which was awarded the Louis R. Gottschalk Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the George and Barbara Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of the Narrative. She is also the author of Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) and The Sentimental Education of the Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), which received the Modern Language Association's Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione prize in French and Francophone literature. In addition,...

2002
2021

Both Claire and her husband, M. d’Albe, are virtuous and upstanding, and Frédéric, her husband’s nineteen-year-old adopted son and factory assistant, is honest and noble-hearted. But in the beautiful and secluded Loire Valley, the friendship between Claire and Frédéric gradually develops into a forbidden passion.

Claire d’Albe (1799) was audacious in its day for its representation of adulterous love as a positive act of self-fulfillment. As the volume editor, Margaret Cohen, indicates, Sophie Cottin’s best-selling work of sentimentalism highlights the tension in Enlightenment liberalism between collective welfare and personal happiness. Although such later French authors as Stendhal and Balzac denigrated sentimentalism along with female novelists, Claire d’Albe influenced their realist aesthetics.